Wageningen University & Research will start investing in refugee students and researchers. The Executive Board has taken this decision following an initiative of the Christelijke Studenten Fractie (Christian Students Fraction, CSF).
Maryam Amini from Iran graduated in 2011 with a master’s in Plant Biotechnology from WUR
<Photo: Guy Ackermans>
Student Council party CSF thinks that a university plays a societal role and should also contribute to a better perspective for refugees. ‘The university is more than just an educational establishment’, says former Student Council member Wiard Ligterink of the CSF. ‘That is why last year, we have urged the university to draft a policy on this subject.’ The CSF members found a sympathetic ear in the Executive Board and a working group was founded. Less than a year later, a policy was delivered that exceeds their wildest dreams, says current CSF Student Council member Ties Terlouw.
‘The university will resume its annual donation of 5000 euros to the Foundation for Refugee Students UAF. For unknown reasons, this donation had been stopped in 2010’, says Terlouw. Additionally, the university will offer additional positions and guidance to highly educated refugees. There are currently five refugee students studying at WUR; the university wants to expand this to a possible ten students. The university also wants to run a pilot to see if refugees with and without status can participate in a number of regular courses. Finally, the university wants to use Studium Generale, WURTalks, Science talks and OneWorldWeek to promote WUR among refugees.
The university got its inspiration for the pilot in part from the InclUUsion programme of Utrecht University. Upon the initiative of two PhD candidates, more than seventy programme coordinators made English-speaking bachelor programmes accessible to refugees. Until now, eighty refugees have registered for these courses and the first twenty have started following lectures this semester. The refugees are registered as contract students and will receive a certificate after finishing the courses.
Nothing but praise
Through is membership in the international programme Scholars at Risk, the university will also make money available to provide two refugee researchers with a position in Wageningen chair groups. The university will also communicate more directly with the HR department and municipalities about internship positions or traineeships for status holders.
‘We have nothing but praise for the plan that has been proposed’, says Ligterink. ‘We had put out feelers in 2016, but we had never expected the university would offer such a far-reaching plan. It is truly marvellous.’ Terlouw has but one point of criticism: ‘The plan does not mention when the university wants to apply this policy. It would be a nice role for the Student Council to regularly ask the Executive Board: how far along is the plan?’